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St Josemaria on Marriage

The future of the world and of the Church passes through the family.[1]

These prophetic words were penned by St. John Paul II in 1982 in his Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio (The Christian Family in the Modern World). Society and the Church are built on the foundation of strong marriage and family life.

The well-being of the individual person and of human and Christian society is intimately linked with the healthy condition of that community produced by marriage and family.[2]

These equally prophetic words were written in 1965 by Pope Paul VI in the Vatican II document, Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World (Gaudium et Spes). It was a time when traditional values were being questioned and often jettisoned as being “old fashioned.” Divorce was rapidly rising, the number of children born out of wedlock was increasing and traditional family life and moral values were under attack.

Our society today is suffering the ills of the breakup of marriages and families. We have become a divided nation with bitterness and anger rising to all time high levels. Violence is at record high levels. As early as 1995, The Heritage Foundation published a study that identified the real reason for the rise in violent crime: the breakdown of marriage, family and community.[3] This study also documented the link between illegitimacy, lack of parental attachment, and violent crime. Specifically, the study found:

  • The rise in violent crime parallels the rise in families abandoned by fathers.
  • High-crime neighborhoods are characterized by high concentrations of families abandoned by fathers.
  • The rate of violent teenage crime corresponds with the number of families abandoned by fathers.


  • Neighborhoods with a high degree of religious practice are not high-crime neighborhoods.
  • Even in high-crime inner-city neighborhoods, well over 90 percent of children from safe, stable homes do not become delinquents. By contrast only 10 percent of children from unsafe, unstable homes in these neighborhoods avoid crime.
  • The mother’s strong affectionate attachment to her child is the child’s best buffer against a life of crime.
  • The father’s authority and involvement in raising his children are also a great buffer against a life of crime.

In conclusion,

The scholarly evidence, in short, suggests that at the heart of the explosion of crime in America is the loss of the capacity of fathers and mothers to be responsible in caring for the children they bring into the world. This loss of love and guidance at the intimate levels of marriage and family has broad social consequences for children and for the wider community. The empirical evidence shows that too many young men and women from broken families tend to have a much weaker sense of connection with their neighborhood and are prone to exploit its members to satisfy their unmet needs or desires. This contributes to a loss of a sense of community and to the disintegration of neighborhoods into social chaos and violent crime.[4]

This study confirms that which the Church has always held to be true: a stable and healthy society is founded on stable and healthy marriages and families.

In a homily given at Christmas in 1970, Marriage: The Christian Vocation, St. Josemaría Escrivá called for husbands and wives to sanctify each other, their families, and the communities in which they lived. His vision for marriage and family is the cure for the ills of our society today.

The marriage union, the care and education of children, the effort to provide for the needs of the family as well as for its security and development, the relationships with other persons who make up the community, all these are among the ordinary human situations that Christian couples are called upon to sanctify.

They will achieve this aim by exercising the virtues of faith and hope, facing serenely all the great and small problems which confront any family, and persevering in love and enthusiasm with which they fulfill their duties. In this way they practice the virtue of charity is all things.[5]

To sanctify family life…

…many Christian virtues are necessary in order to sanctify each day of one’s life. First, the theological virtues [faith, hope, and charity], and then all the others: prudence, loyalty, sincerity, humility, industriousness, cheerfulness…But when we talk about marriage and married life, we must begin by speaking clearly about the mutual love of husband and wife (emphasis added).[6]

If we are to change the world in which we live, we must first change the family. It is through the family that children learn to get along with others in mutual love and respect.

Every Christian home should be a place of peace and serenity. In spite of the small frustrations of daily life, an atmosphere of profound and sincere affection should reign there together with deep-rooted calm, which is the result of authentic faith that is put into practice.[7]

Is St. Josemaría’s vision of marriage and family life an idealistic improbability? Absolutely! It is only through God’s grace working in and through the husband and wife that this is attainable. We are powerless to attain this through our own efforts.

And how do we attain this grace? We receive it in the Sacraments. A special grace is imparted to husband and wife in the Sacrament of Matrimony to live out this vision of family life. We are strengthened in this grace when we worthily receive Christ in the Sacrament of the Eucharist, and we sustain it through frequent partaking in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. God has given us everything we need to build a holy and healthy family. It is through the family, that we will change the culture in which we live. It is the only hope for the future of our nation and our world.

Show the world how to live family life well. It is through your godly example that others will come to know the love of God the Father and have a life-changing encounter with His Son, Jesus Christ!

“By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:35

[1] John Paul II, Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio, §75, internet: http://w2.vatican.va/content/john-paul-ii/en/apost_exhortations/documents/hf_jp-ii_exh_19811122_familiaris-consortio.html, November 22, 1982; (accessed August 10, 2019).

[2] Paul VI, Vatican II Council Gaudium et Spes, §47, December 7, 1965; http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_cons_19651207_gaudium-et-spes_en.html (accessed August 10, 2019).


[3] The Heritage Foundation, The Real Root Causes of Violent Crime: The Breakdown of Marriage, Family, and Community, internet: https://www.heritage.org/crime-and-justice/report/the-real-root-causes-violent-crime-the-breakdown-marriage-family-and (accessed August 10, 2019).

[4] Ibid.

[5] St. Josemaría Escrivá, Christ is Passing By: Homilies by Josemaría Escrivá (New York: Scepter, a translation of Es Cristo Que Pasa, Madrid, 1973), §23.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid.